Friday, September 28, 2018

GHGSat Raises $10Mln US in Series A2 Financing; Gains Access to Worlds Largest Oil and Gas Customers

          By Chuck Black

According to Montreal PQ based GHGSat CEO Stéphane Germain, the most important takeaway from the recent announcement that his firm had raised US$10Mln US ($13Mln CDN) in Series A2 financing in a deal led by the London UK based OGCI Climate Investments, was to note that it provided "access to the world's largest grouping of oil and gas companies interested in the transition to a lower carbon future."

Germain spoke with this blog earlier in the week.

OGCI is the billion dollar investment arm of the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI) a voluntary, CEO-led initiative composed of approximately a dozen of the world's top oil and gas companies. OGCI was "created to pool knowledge and collaborate on action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions" according to the OGCI website.

The latest funding also included financial backing from Houston TX based Schlumberger (the world's largest oilfield services company), the New York NY based Space Angels Network and the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), a Montreal PQ based crown corporation.

CEO Germain. Photo c/o GHGSat.
As outlined in the September 24th, 2018 GHGSat press release, "GHGSat Raises US$10M in Financing Led by OGCI Climate Investments," the company has raised over $20Mln US ($26Mln CDN), including contributions from both the Canadian and Albertan governments.

In June 2016, GHGSat launched the the GHGSat-D next generation greenhouse gas monitoring satellite, the first commercial satellite capable of tracking greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from industrial sites

For background on this satellite, check out the November 30th, 2015 Special Report, "'All Systems Go!' GHGSat Completes Testing and is Ready for Launch."

The new funding will be used to build two more satellites similar in function to the first, plus design a new series of aircraft spectrometers and optimize existing capabilities to "accelerate efforts on the analytics required to properly assess the data," according to Germain.

The new satellites “will have an order of magnitude better performance when we're finished,” predicted Germain, while still remaining about the same size and shape as the original GHGSat-D, also known affectionately as "Claire."

As outlined in the September 26th, 2018 Scientific American post, "Private Company Plans to Launch More Greenhouse Gas-Detecting Satellites," GHGSat's target market includes oil and gas companies, which can use satellite reports to monitor leaks from refineries, wellheads and lengthy pipeline systems.
GHGSat is also working with a branch of the Australian government to pinpoint leaks from coal mines and has another contract to identify methane and carbon dioxide leaks from large hydroelectric dams operated by Hydro-Québec.
The company also maintains contacts with the New York NY based Environmental Defense Fund, a nonprofit advocacy group working on its own MethaneSAT program and the European Space Agency (ESA), which launched the Sentinel-5 Precursor satellite in October 2017.

One of the instruments on board the Sentinel-5 is the TROPOspheric Monitoring Instrument (TROPOMI), which, although its mission is scientific and not commercial, performs a similar function and has a much larger field of view.

As series of Earth observations from GHGSat-D, the first operational satellite from GHGSat, also known as "Claire." As outlined on the GHGSat "Observations of Methane Emissions from Coal Mines" webpage, measurement noise "can make it difficult to detect methane point sources from a single observation, but temporal averaging of multiple observations reduces the noise. We find that aggregating data from ten to twenty GHGSat-D overpasses reveals strong time-averaged plume signals from three coal mines. Once these plumes are detected, we use two methods to estimate the corresponding source rates: one based on the observed integrated mass enhancement (IME) and another based on the average cross-sectional flux." Photo's c/o GHGSat.

But GHGSat isn't just a scientific venture. It's using scientific tools to solve a series of practical and immediate problems.

Germain knows that leaks from refineries, wellheads and lengthy pipeline systems are both expensive to clean up and costly from an ecological perspective. Oil and gas companies are actively searching for solutions.

According to Germain, "we now have access to the worlds largest customers and, through their membership in the OGCI, we now also have access to their procurement peopleWe're well on the way to scaling this company."
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

Thales Joins the Maxar/MDA "DontLetGoCanada" Coalition

          By Henry Stewart

The Toronto ON based regional office of Paris France based Thales Group, one of Canada's larger and more noteworthy aerospace subcontractors, has joined the MAXAR/MDA dominated "Don't Let Go Canada" coalition, according to the coalition website.

As outlined most recently in the August 2nd, 2018 post, "Airbus Competing Against Thales/ Maxar to Design and Build the 117 Satellite Telesat Constellation," both Maxar and Thales are already working together to access subcontract work from Ottawa ON based Telesat for its proposed low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellation.

They're competing against Fort Erie ON based Airbus Canada for the final contract and Telesat's decision is expected over the next few months. Neither Telesat nor Airbus has so far joined the Maxar/MDA coalition.

By signing up, Thales joins Mississauga ON based Honeywell Canada, Mississauga ON based Magellan Aerospace, Brampton ON based MDA (a subsidiary of Westminster CO based Maxar Technologies) and approximately twenty seven other organizations. 

Other new corporate members include Montreal PQ based Maya (a player in the growing "artificial intelligence" field), Lively ON based Mafic Studios (a 3D animation facility specializing in scientifically accurate images), Sherbrooke PQ based NGC Aerospace, stealth rocketry start-ups Reaction Dynamics and Space Horizon, Toronto ON based Skywatch and Kanata ON based Space Strategies Consulting Ltd. (SSCL).

The newly joined clubs and associations include the Toronto ON based Canadian Astronomical Society, the Montreal Student Space Associations, Montreal PQ based Space Concordia (a student society at Concordia University), the Canadian chapter of the International Space Generation Advisory Council (a US based but global non-profit (US 501(c)3) organisation which aims to represent university students and young space professionals), the Calgary AB based Student Organization for Aerospace Research (the University of Calgary’s "foremost student-run high altitude research club"), the Canadian chapter of the Plano TX based Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) and the University of British Columbia (UBC) Rocket Club.

Airbus also has connections to the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (LOP-G). According to the September 20th, 2018 Airbus press release, "Forward to the Moon: Airbus wins ESA studies for future human base in lunar orbit," The European Space Agency (ESA) has "commissioned Airbus for two studies for possible European involvement in the future human base in lunar orbit." Graphic c/o NASA.

As outlined in the September 18th, 2018 post, "Colorado Based Maxar/MDA Asking for $1-2Bln to Build Another Canadarm for the US LOP-G," the coalition was created earlier this month to: 
  • Encourage the Federal government to develop a "long-term space strategy." 
  • Increase Federal spending for the domestic space industry.
  • Lobby the Federal government to provide up to $2Bln CDN to Maxar/MDA over a period of up to twenty years to fund a "third-generation Canadarm" for NASA's planned Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (LOP-G).
The lobbying is being done to coincide with the Federal government's annual pre-budget consultation process. 

Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

A Proposed New Hypersonic Flight Test Bed from Stratolaunch Systems

          By Brian Orlotti

Seattle WA based Stratolaunch Systems Corporation, the aerospace firm founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, has announced that it is exploring the development of a series of rocket planes that would serve as a testbed for hypersonic flight.

As outlined in the September 20th, 2018 Geek Wire post, "Paul Allen’s Stratolaunch Systems lays out a roadmap for hypersonic rocket planes," Stratolaunch senior technical fellow for hypersonics Stephen Corda presented a concept study detailing a delta-wing uncrewed testbed aircraft called Hyper-Z at the 22nd American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ (AIAA) International Space Planes and Hypersonic Systems and Technologies conference, which was held on September 19th - 22nd in Orlando FL.

Called the Hyper-Z, the proposed rocket plane would feature a hydrogen-fueled rocket engine as its main propulsion system, but could also be equipped with an air-breathing engine, such as a scram-jet. The craft could achieve a maximum speed of Mach 11, or a maximum altitude of 477,000 feet.

Hyper-Z would be launched from Stratolaunch, the company’s massive twin-fuselage carrier aircraft, currently the world’s largest with a wingspan of 385 feet. The Stratolaunch is presently undergoing ground tests at California’s Mojave Air and Space Port, with its maiden test flight expected within the next few months.

Stratolaunch made its public debut in December 2011. The company was founded by American business magnate Paul G. Allen and Mojave CA based Scaled Composites founder Burt Rutan, who had previously collaborated on the creation of SpaceShipOne.

The company hopes that the Hyper-Z will make hypersonic flight accessible to universities small business, and other interested parties. The craft would serve as the first in a line of rocket-powered vehicles, including a crewed orbital space plane that the company has dubbed ‘Black Ice.’

Though Stratolaunch has not made a formal decision to build the Hyper-Z nor given a timeline, the path is being prepared with the proposed building of a subscale version called Hyper-A. This precursor vehicle would be slightly bigger than the US Air Force’s Boeing-built X-51 Waverider aircraft, which made a record-setting hypersonic flight in 2013. The Hyper-A is designed to fly beyond Mach 6 and could potentially reach Mach 7.7.

Stratolaunch has already performed low-speed wind tunnel tests of the Hyper-Z design, and high-speed wind tunnel tests are to begin this fall. While no timeline has been given for Hyper-Z’s development, the Stratolaunch carrier aircraft is expected to require 1.5 to 2 years of flight testing before becoming operational. This would mean no flights of the Hyper-A could take place before 2020.

Hypersonic flight holds the civilian promise of vastly reduced global flight times as well as cheaper space launches, but will have substantial military applications as well and the program will likely need to receive initial funding from military sources.

Should Stratolaunch scrape together enough money to proceed with the Hyper-Z, both civilian and military requirements will need to be met.
Brian Orlotti.

Brian Orlotti is a network operator at the Ontario Research and Innovation Optical Network (ORION), a not-for-profit network service provider to the education and research sectors.

Monday, September 24, 2018

With Stock Prices Rising, A New Board, New CEO and Secured Funding, UrtheCast Might Be Moving Forward

          By Chuck Black

Vancouver BC based UrtheCast is moving quickly to make up for lost time and (hopefully) remind the country that the private sector can also fund and execute complex space focused projects.

According to the January 3rd, 2018 Cantech Letter post, "Urthecast has 264% upside, Clarus Securities says," the stock market was betting big on UrtheCast. But in March 2018, its stock fell through the floor, loosing almost half its value on March 8th (from $0.98 CDN to $0.55CDN) and slowly dropping under $0.30 CDN per share over the next several months. As outlined in the June 26th, 2018 post, "UrtheCast Shareholders Endorse the New Board," the new board and CEO, ex-MDA president Don Osborne, are hoping to generate a turn around, or at least some signs of life, before the next financial reporting period, sometime this fall. Graphic c/o UrtheCast.

As outlined in the September 20th, 2018 UrtheCast press release, "UrtheCast Announces the Signing of New US$25M Contract for UrtheDaily Constellation," UrtheCast:
...has signed a binding contract for $25Mln US ($32.5Mln CDN) to provide data from the Company's planned UrtheDaily™ Constellation to a long-established commercial Earth observation operator and value-added services provider on the Indian subcontinent. The contract will provide UrtheCast US$5Mln ($6.5Mln CDN) annually over the first five years of UrtheDaily™ operations...
This latest contract, when added to revenue acquired from the acquisition of the North Vancouver BC based Geosys Technology in August 2018, is expected to bring UrtheCast's total contracted revenue backlog to over $300Mln CDN, according to the press release.

And, while $300Mln doesn't compare to the billions of dollars of backlog commonly reported by large telecom companies like Ottawa ON based Telesat or Westminster CO based Maxar Technologies, its a good start.

As outlined in the August 2nd, 2018 Ottawa Business Journal post, "Ottawa-based Telesat adds new contracts amid disappointing Q2," Telesat reported a $3.8Bln CDN backlog for its most recent quarter. As outlined in the July 31st, 2018 Maxar press release, "Maxar Technologies reports second quarter 2018 results, declares quarterly dividend," Maxar reported a backlog of $3.05Bln US ($3.95Mln CDN) as of June 30th, 2018.

Revenue backlog is the value of contracted revenue that has yet to be recognized. Its a useful measurement of the future strength of a company.

The three revenue generation windows for Urthecast as per the January 9th, 2018 Seeking Alpha post, "UrtheCast: 3 Steps Forward, 2 Steps Back," which stated that "UrtheCast has steadily improved its business stability throughout its corporate history," and praised the 2015 UrtheCast purchase of Boecillo Spain based Deimos Imaging. As outlined on the UrtheCast website, the UrtheDaily Constellation is a planned "global coverage constellation aiming to acquire high-quality, multispectral imagery, at 5-m GSD, taken at the same time, from the same altitude every day." As outlined on Gunter's Space page listing for Urthedaily, the constellation, "planned for launch in 2020, will be capable of scientific-grade quality, multispectral imagery, high-resolution, targeted specifically at geoanalytics applications. The satellites have a 5 m ground resolution with a 360 km swath width." Graphic c/o Seeking Alpha.

In anticipation of the new order, UrtheCast stock on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSE) rose substantially last week.

As outlined in the September 22nd, 2018 Press Oracle post, "UrtheCast (UR) Shares Up 43.8%," UrtheCast stock prices:
...shot up 43.8% during trading on Thursday (September 20th). The company traded as high as 0.23 CDN and last traded at $0.23 CDN. 
523,490 shares traded hands during mid-day trading, an increase of 20% from the average session volume of 436,979 shares. The stock had previously closed at $0.16 CDN...
The stock price eventually settled down at $0.20 CDN per share, up from $0.16 CDN, where it currently seems to be hovering.

As outlined in the June 26th, 2018  post, "UrtheCast Shareholders Endorse the New Board," the company has recently approved a new board and a new CEO. The appointments were considered by the broader investment community to be "a vote of confidence" on UrtheCast's future prospects, according to sources.

The next formal quarterly investor report is expected in November.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Update on the Maxar/MDA Billion Dollar Campaign for Next-Gen Canadarm Funding

          By Henry Stewart

Brampton ON based MDA Space Missions (a subsidiary of Westminster, CO based Maxar Technologies) is moving forward with its controversial campaign to lobby the Federal government to provide up to $2Bln CDN over a period of up to twenty years to fund a "third-generation Canadarm" for NASA's planned Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (LOP-G).

The campaign, currently being pushed by Maxar/MDA with the assistance of senior members of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), the Aerospace Industry Association of Canada (AIAC) space committee and others, is wrapped around a suggestion that funding a new Canadarm would insure Canadian astronaut access to the LOP-G in much the same way the the earlier generations of Canadarms provided Canada's entrance fee into the International Space Station (ISS).

A subtext of the main plan seems to be that funding a major, international program would also re-establish Canada's traditional role as a player in the international space industry. New opportunities (such as on-orbit satellite servicing) would then open up for Canada, which would once again have the luxury of picking and choosing programs which could be crafted into a functioning and workable "long-term space plan."

The first problem with that strategy is that long-term space plans, beginning with the first one, "Upper Atmosphere and Space Programs in Canada by J.H. Chapman, P.A. Forsyth, P.A. Lapp and G.N. Patterson, which was written in 1967, have traditionally been focused around domestic concerns, not international opportunities.

The second problem, as outlined in the September 18th, 2018 post, "Colorado Based Maxar/MDA Asking for $1-2Bln to Build Another Canadarm for the US LOP-G," is the publicly perceived pressure being quietly placed on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal government by Maxar/MDA, NASA and the US to announce support for the LOP-G and funding for another Canadarm program as quickly as possible. The pressure for an immediate solution makes it difficult to properly assess the costs and benefits of the proposal.

The third problem is that most of the money initially allocated for the LOP-G goes to Maxar/MDA which has promised a wonderful, but surprisingly vague, future of "unicorns and rainbows" for all organizations willing to support its plan. This promise doesn't sit well with many Maxar/MDA supporters who would like a little more detail on how all that new Federal funding will help to build out a "balanced program," where everyone receives a fair share of the Federal pie. 

The fourth problem with this strategy is that no real Canadian work on a "next generation Canadarm" has been undertaken in Canada since 2013 when the last large chunk of Federal funding for the program ran out. Five years is a long time in robotics.

Now that the general interest presentation kicking off the "Don't Let Go Canada" campaign is out of the way, the focus has changed to more business and political focused arenas.

On Tuesday, September 25th, 2018, MDA group president Mike Greenley and business manager Holly Johnson will be giving a presentation on "Securing Canada’s Place in Space," in Ottawa ON. The presentation will launch the Canadian Club of Ottawa's fall season.

On Tuesday, October 16th, 2018, the Canadian Global Affairs Institute will be presenting a full day event titled, "Ready for Launch: Preparing Canada for a Future in Space." The event will also take place in Ottawa ON, which will make it really convenient for all those politicians which Maxar/MDA are hoping will attend.

Speakers include Greenley, former Canadian Space Agency (CSA) president Mac Evans, Federal transport minister, ex-astronaut and ex-CSA head Marc Garneau (who will serve as keynote speaker), Telesat CEO Dan Goldberg, Honeywell Aerospace senior director of space payloads Marina Mississian, current CSA head Sylvain Laporte, Space Advisory Board (SAB) chair Lucy Stojak and quite a number of others.
Editors Note: It looks like the Federal government SAB website has gone offline. Here's hoping that the loss of the public access to the information collected by the SAB during its deliberations last spring is an accident and not a political statement on what the Federal Liberal government thinks of current SAB efforts.
Of course and as outlined in the March 8th, 2018 post, "Space Advisory Board Chair Admits Disappointment over Budget but Promises to Continue to Support Space Sector," it's well known that the SAB doesn't think all that highly of the government. 
That's part of the reason why SAB members are involved in the current Maxar/MDA effort and maybe those feelings are mutual. As always, we'll update this story as new information becomes available.
September 21st, 2018 Editors Note: Looks like the SAB website is back online but at a new location. It's now at It used to be at the slightly different
The future of the the Federal Space Advisory Board (shown here with innovation minister Navdeep Bains in February 2018, just before the 2018 Canadian Federal budget was announced) seemed a lot sharper when this photo was taken than it does today. Photo c/o Canadian Space Society.
Meanwhile, back on Parliment Hill the budget process will continue and will culminate sometime around March 2019, when the next Federal budget will be released.

While Maxar/MDA hasn't been called to present in person during the Pre-Budget Consultations in Advance of the 2019 Federal Budget, that doesn't necessarily mean that any final decision has been made.

Stand by for adventure.

Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Japanese Billionaire Parties Around the Moon

          By Brian Orlotti

On September 17th , SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced that Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and an entourage of artists will visit the Moon in 2023, making them the first private citizens ever to fly beyond low Earth orbit.

Maezawa, founder of Japanese e-commerce giant Zozotown, will fly around the moon aboard a "Big F*cking Rocket" (BFR). A group of six to eight artists of his choosing, from painters and sculptors to fashion designers and architects, will join Maezawa on his journey to share the experience.

The group will also share their experiences with the public via a website ( that Maezawa has created just for the mission.

Neither Musk nor Maezawa would disclose the flight’s cost, but both confirmed that Maezawa has already made a substantial downpayment.

Because Maezawa has shouldered the full cost of the flight, the artists travelling with him will fly for free.

Musk emphasized that the mission will be dangerous and that the 2023 launch date is not certain.

As part of its development, SpaceX plans to put the BFR through short "hopper tests" in 2019 and high-altitude, high-velocity test flights in 2020. Should these tests go well, the BFR’s first orbital flight could take place in two to three years’ time.

SpaceX will also perform a number of additional uncrewed test flights before putting Maezawa and the artists on board. Musk estimates a total BFR development cost of around $5Bln US ($ CDN), and thanked Maezawa for providing a significant chunk of funding toward that end.

SpaceX’s BFR will be the company’s premier spacecraft and the workhorse for achieving the company’s goal: human settlement of the solar system.

A multi-role vehicle, the BFR will eventually handle such tasks as fuel tanker, launch/repair/retrieval of satellites, space junk cleanup, point-to-point orbital passenger flights on Earth and ferrying human expeditions to the Moon and Mars.

As part of his announcement, Musk also provided an update on the BFR’s design.

The craft will be taller than previously stated at 118 metres instead of 106 metres. The new design will also feature three actuated rear fins that double as landing pads, as well as two fins near its nose.

The BFR’s previous design had only two small wings at the back.

Some may dismiss Maezawa and company’s trip around the moon as a rich man’s whim; a stunt born of boredom. In truth, however, it is a powerful statement on the opening of the space frontier; that space can be a place for all humans, if we so wish it.
Brian Orlotti.

Brian Orlotti is a network operator at the Ontario Research and Innovation Optical Network (ORION), a not-for-profit network service provider to the education and research sectors.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Colorado Based Maxar/MDA Asking for $1-2Bln to Build Another Canadarm for the US LOP-G

          By Chuck Black

Rumour has it that the Brampton ON based MDA Space Missions (a subsidiary of Westminster, CO based Maxar Technologies) submission to the 2019 Federal government Pre-Budget Consultations, is simply the first step in an estimated $1-2Bln CDN request for Federal funding by Maxar/MDA to build a new Canadarm for NASA's planned Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (LOP-G).

Rumour also has it that the new "'Don’t Let Go Canada' coalition is mostly organized through Maxar/MDA because, as outlined in the September 13th, 2018 post, "Dead Cat Bounce! New Canadian Space "Coalition" Wants Much the Same as Last Time, But With Money" it's also focused on encouraging the Canadian government to fund the LOP-G.

Of course, those rumours are more than just rumours. And Maxar/MDA is also receiving at least some help from others.

According to several high-level sources within the Canadian space industry, certain NASA employees (including Bill Gerstenmaier, the NASA administrator for human exploration and operations) are working with senior members of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), the Aerospace Industry Association of Canada (AIAC) space committee and Maxar/MDA to co-ordinate a campaign to encourage the Federal government to announce funding for Canada's contribution to the LOP-G program as early as this fall, if possible.

If not, the new funding would be included within the March 2019 Federal Budget, scheduled for release in March 2019. The intent is to have the Canadian government commit between $1Bln and 2Bln CDN over the next twenty years. That's up to $100Mln CDN for each and every year of the next twenty years.

Here are a few more substantive facts.

The Maxar/MDA brief, "Securing Canada’s Place in Space: Key to Canada’s Competitiveness," written by MDA CEO Mike Greenley, is available online at the Federal government 2019 Pre-Budget consultation website.

According to the brief, the company is recommending that:
  • As consistent with the May 2018 report of the Federally mandated Space Advisory Board (SAB) titled, "Consultations on Canada’s Future in Space: What We Heard," the Federal government recognize space as a national strategic asset and a key contributor "to Canada’s competitiveness today and in the new space economy."
  • The Federal government develop a long-term space plan for Canada that "establishes the requisite funding to maintain our existing world leadership in satellite communications, robotics, Earth observation and space science; cultivate new areas of leadership; and position Canada to be competitive in the new space economy."
  • As an important first pillar of Canada’s long-term space plan, "the government announce a commitment in Budget 2019 (at the latest – time is running out) to provide a third generation Canadarm to the international space community’s next big exploration mission, the Gateway project (known formally as the LOP-G)."
  • The government provide $1-2Bln CDN over the next 20 years, beginning in Budget 2019, to fund a third generation Canadarm, thus "securing Canada’s existing world leadership in space robotics."
In essence, the Maxar/MDA brief is absolutely an ask for further Canadarm funding, although service is also paid to the failed SAB and the need for some sort of long-term plan was noted.

But as the prime contractor for Canadarm work, Maxar/MDA stands to benefit the most from this proposal, if the Federal government decides to accept the recommendations.

Here's another piece of useful information.

As outlined in the September 17th, 2018 e-mail to "Don't Let Go Canada" participants titled "Campaign Update," the coalition campaign seems to originate through MDA director of public affairs Leslie Swartman, who is listed as writing the e-mail.

According to Swartman:
Today is the day we formally kick off the ("Don't Let Go Canada") campaign! I have attached two press releases - one announcing the campaign launch and the other announcing the results of the public opinion research conducted by Ipsos earlier this summer. I have also attached an executive summary of the Ipsos research and the full report. As well, the campaign website is now live:
Just a few upcoming events to note. As mentioned previously, tonight there will be a public discussion about the poll at the offices of iPolitics from 5-7pm. The event will begin with a presentation by Ipsos executives Sandra Guiry and Brad Griffin, followed by a panel discussion moderated by iPolitics’ James Baxter which will feature panelists Mike Greenley (MDA’s Group President); Mike Pley (Pley Consulting); Kate Howells (The Planetary Society); and Marianne Mader (Canadian Association of Science Centres). The event is free and tickets are still available at: 
On Tuesday, September 25, 2018, from 11:30am to 1:30 pm, MDA’s Mike Greenley (Group President) and Holly Johnson (President’s Business Manager) will launch the Canadian Club of Ottawa’s fall season, with a speech entitled “Securing Canada's Place in Space”. The luncheon will take place in the Château Laurier – Ballroom. Below is the website where you can purchase tickets (I can give you a promo code for a discounted ticket if you are interested). 
Finally, the Canadian Global Affairs Institute will hold a conference on Tuesday, October 16th entitled, "Ready for Launch: Preparing Canada for a Future in Space". Here is the link for information and tickets: 
Feel free to share this information with colleagues and friends, and also follow the campaign on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and share via the hashtag #DontLetGoCanada. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
The two press releases included with the e-mail are the September 17th, 2018 "Don't Let Go Canada" press release, "Canadian public is onboard with Government of Canada investment to secure Canada’s place in space" and the September 17th, 2018 "Don't Let Go Canada" press release, "Space sector coalition launches campaign to outline exciting opportunities for Canada in space."

Both press releases include contacts from Ottawa ON based PR firm Prospectus Associates for those who'd like more information, but doesn't include any contact information on "Don't Let Go Canada" members

If "Don't Let Go Canada" has enough funding to engage Prospectus, which is "one of Canada’s leading national public affairs consulting firms," according to its website, then it has just got to have a substantive war-chest for this campaign.

The "Don't Let Go Canada" coalition has also engaged the Toronto ON and Washington DC based Ipsos Public Affairs, another action indicative of substantial funding.

As outlined in both the September 2018 IPSOS Public Affairs executive summary under the title, "Canada Belongs in Space: Executive Summary of Research Findings," and the September 2018 full report titled, "Canada Belongs in Space Combined Research Report," Canadians are well disposed towards our national space industry and perceive that substantial benefits derive from its activities.

Which is all well and good. But the real question isn't whether Canada belongs in space.

The real question is whether our domestic space industry should continue to rely on high powered public and private lobbying efforts from foreign owned firms like Maxar/MDA in order to fund and promote other peoples space activities.

Maybe we should be building our own space systems. Some of us already do and they do it for a far lower cost.

And maybe that's a subject for another day.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Eight Other Views on How Canada's Upcoming 2019 Budget Can Help (or Hurt) Our Space Future

          By Chuck Black

The four hundred and seventy-seven briefs received by the Federal government as part of the 2019 Pre-Budget Consultations in Advance of the 2019 Budget have been posted online in advance of a series of parlimentary meetings on the topic, which are currently scheduled to begin on September 27th, 2018.

The government will use the knowledge gained through this process to create the 2019 Federal budget, which will be released next spring.

Given that, it's worth noting that Brampton ON based MDA Space Missions (a subsidiary of Westminster, CO based Maxar Technologies) isn't the only Canadian space company contributing to the Federal pre-budget consultations.

It might not even be the only company expending a great deal of time, effort and money to advocate its viewpoint.

Here are overviews of eight other space focused organizations which contributed briefs to the Federal government. They include:
The brief advocated: 
  • That the Federal government should add “Launch vehicle technology and technology for launch sites” as admissible research categories for Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) grants providing funding for aerospace or space research and development.  
  • That the Federal government should invest in "new business practices through partnerships with Canadian companies, not-for-profits and charities, such that the youth may be equipped with STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills relevant to the launch industry and the overall space industry."
The CSS brief advocated: 
  • That the Federal government provide the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) with more funding "to allow increased participation in ISS missions, recruit more astronauts, establish new research and operation centres and develop future projects of different scopes." 
  • That the budget provides funding for the CSA and partners to develop preliminary proposals for space-based "green energy production and mining projects." 
  • That the Federal government indicate "support for private space companies in Canada, procure services from the industry and encourage entrepreneurship."
  • The creation and support for "comprehensive outreach programs to educate the public on the importance of space exploration." 
  • That the government works closely with the experts in the field such as the federally mandated Space Advisory Board (SAB), to promptly adopt new space-related policies and strategies.
It's worth noting that the CCA is a part of the larger Canadian Astronomical Society (CASCA), which advises the CSA on matters pertaining to the space astronomy segment of the CSA space science program, including priorities, areas of research, selection mechanisms, funding areas and the extent of funding.
The CCA brief advocated: 
  • The creation of "an official entity for funding applications for big science projects.
  • The allocation of sufficient Federal funding for Canadian researchers to take advantage of this new entity and develop "international collaboration opportunities on big science projects." 
  • The "establish a new vision for the Canadian Space Agency that includes space science," with an annual budget of $100Mln in order to support competitions for small, medium and large space missions. 
The MCSS brief advocated:
  • That the government increase the "A-base budget" for the CSA to above the average rates measured for international space agencies as measured by the Paris, France based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).  The "A-base" budget covers base funding requirements such as salaries and office requirements but not specific CSA programs or projects.
  • That the government support additional large-scale space exploration missions "such as planetary rovers." 
  • That "the government take an active international role in developing policy to facilitate sustainable exploration."
The Planetary Society brief advocated:
  • That the government increase the CSA's "A-base budget," to at least $300Mln CDN per annum.
The SATCAN brief advocated:
  • That the Federal government restore the CSA to its original purpose and mandate, “To promote the peaceful use and development of space, to advance the knowledge of space through science and to ensure that space science and technology provide social and economic benefits for Canadians.” 
  • That the Federal government increase "direct funding allocations for satellite products, services, research and development to those agencies that the need for space-based connectivity, capability and infrastructure." 
  • That the Federal government should allocate $93Mln CDN over five years "for the establishment of a sustainable, industry focused satellite technology and applications network." 
The SGAC brief advocated:
  • A "competitive budget allocation" for the Canadian Space Agency, in line with the "per capita GDP parity" of other major spacefaring nations. 
  • That the Federal government "urgently acknowledges its institutional and financial commitment to deep space initiatives alongside its international partners." 
  • That the Federal government amend its current Innovation and Skills Plan to include a funding mechanism to "incentivize, sustain and harmonize indigenous capability development programs focused on space science and technology, with a focus on Canadian youth." 
  • That the Federal government "expands its focus" across the four streams of the Federal government Strategic Innovation Fund by "increasing its call for proposals to include the space sector and to specifically bolster small and medium-sized enterprises." 
The brief advocated:
  • That the Federal government approve a CSA space strategy and restore adequate funding "as a means to stretch our national capabilities and rally our citizens."
The MDA brief, "Securing Canada’s Place in Space: Key to Canada’s Competitiveness," written by MDA CEO Mike Greenley, will be the subject of our next post.

As part of its 2018 Pre-Budget Consultations in Advance of the 2018 Budget, Ottawa ON based Telesat submitted a brief titled, "Telesat 2018 Federal Pre-Budget Submission," which advocated that the Federal government invest "in a Made-in-Canada satellite broadband communications solution."

That proposal, as outlined in the February 28th, 2018 post, "'Big Winners' in Tuesday's Federal Budget," became the core of Finance Minister Bill Morneau's announcement of a $100Mln Cdn satellite funding initiative in Budget 2018.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Dead Cat Bounce! New Canadian Space "Coalition" Wants Much the Same as Last Time, But With Money

          By Chuck Black

A "new" Canadian space coalition, wrapped around a public advocacy campaign more evocative of a 1996 En Vogue love ballad than any past Canadian space adventure, has rolled out its website and plans to "help secure our place in space."

As outlined on its newly launched "Don’t Let Go Canada website," a group of "concerned Canadians representing industry, academia and the space enthusiast community" have gathered together "to ask the Canadian government to secure Canada’s place in space by putting forward a funded space strategy."

Not that there is anything wrong with that.

In fact, the only real problem with the proposal (other than the silly name, the underlying assumption that nothing can be done without Federal government funding/ supervision and the lack of any academic institution willing to go on record as supporting the plan) is its decision to create a public facing advocacy campaign (complete with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts) instead of opting for the tried and true private advocacy and government lobbyist route.

Aerospace organizations have traditionally only undertaken public advocacy campaigns after the political barn doors have been shut tight on the private efforts.

The concerned Canadians listed on the "Don't Let Go Canada" coalition website include Montreal PQ based ABB Canada, Bolton, ON based Canadensys Aerospace, Sudbury ON based Deltion Innovations Ltd., Mississauga ON based Honeywell Canada, Halifax NS based IMP Group, Sherbrooke PQ based Menya Solutions, Ottawa ON based Mission Control Space Services, Mississauga ON based Magellan Aerospace, Kanata ON based Neptec Design Group (now a subsidiary of MDA, so perhaps not legitimately an independent voice), Brampton ON based MDA (a subsidiary of Westminster CO based Maxar Technologies), Saskatoon SK based SED Systems (a division of Ottawa ON based Callian Ltd), Montreal PQ based Satellite Canada (SATCAN) and Montreal PQ based Xiphos Technologies.

Associations and advocates include the Ottawa ON based Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC), Kanata ON based Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute (CASI), the Toronto ON based Canadian Space Society (CSS), the Canadian chapter of the Pasadena CA based Planetary Society and the Toronto ON based Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC).

University and academic institutions have already benefited big-time from the 2018 Federal budget and that fact might go a long way towards explaining why no academic institution has, so far at least, signed on to the "Don't Let Go Canada" consortium. As outlined in the February 27th, 2018 Toronto Star post, "Budget boosts science research, grant funding," the 2018 Federal budget substancially increased funding for fundamental research. As well, and as outlined in the February 28th, 2018 post, "'Big Winners' in Tuesday's Federal Budget," the Federal government also allocated $100Mln Cdn for low Earth orbit (LEO) broadband initiatives. Most of those funds are expected to end up at Telesat, which hasn't signed on to the "Don't Let Go Canada" consortium, either. Graphic c/o The Star.

Notable by their absence in the "Don't Let Go Canada" coalition are firms like Ottawa ON based Telesat which, as outlined in the September 11th, 2018 Space News post, "Telesat says ideal LEO constellation is 292 satellites, but could be 512," is building its own, quite substantial constellation of orbiting satellites and has already received Federal government funding, Toronto ON based Kepler Communications and Montreal PQ based NorthStar Space Data Inc. which are both attempting to do much the same thing on a smaller scale.

Also missing from the coalition is support from any Canadian university, post secondary school or educational faculty.

As noted most recently in the September 6th, 2018 post, "2018 Listing of 50+ Academic Facilities Contributing to Canadian Space Expertise," there are a lot of academics involved in the space industry.

The inability of the "Don't Let Go Canada" coalition to attract even one to its cause has just got to make life difficult for an organization attempting to represent "industry, academia and the space enthusiast community."

This time around, unlike the last time as outlined in the March 8th, 2018 post, "Space Advisory Board Chair Admits Disappointment over Budget but Promises to Continue to Support Space Sector," the plan is to ask for the money up front.

According to the "Don't Let Go Canada" coalition website, the focus is on asking for a "funded long-term Canadian Space Strategy to guide our way forward," beginning with funding for the Canadian contribution to NASA's proposed Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (LOP-G) which the consortium calls the "Lunar Gateway."

Not that there is anything wrong with that, either.

This blog, as outlined most recently in the March 22nd, 2018 post, "What Happens After the Failure of the Space Advisory Board?" has argued that the LOP-G would likely receive funding by the Federal government since the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) needs to focus on it's core mission to support the International Space Station (ISS) and whatever may follow on after the ISS is decommissioned, sometime after 2025. Any follow-on programs would likely include close co-operation with NASA (the CSA's favorite international space agency for subcontract work) and would probably include a Canadian contribution to the US led LOP-G.

Maybe its in the best interest of the "Don't Let Go Canada" coalition to advocate for something likely to happen anyway. That way, they end up backing at least one winner.

But as for the part where where the up front money comes with some sort of "strategy" to guide spending, that likely isn't going to happen.

The real strategy, at least from the political perspective, will be to provide enough funding for the expected Canadian LOP-G contractors (most of which are well represented in the "Don't Let Go Canada" coalition) so that they won't cause any trouble for the government in the run up to the next Federal election.

Perhaps the most important takeaway from the new initiative is, as outlined in the September 13th, 2018 SpaceQ post, "New Space Coalition Aims to Pressure Government as Marketing Campaign Begins," the fact that a larger, Canadian based news service has taken an interest in Canadian space activities.

As outlined in the SpaceQ post, "the coalition will be holding a series of events to talk about Canada’s space program and why it’s important to Canadians. The first will be held on Monday in Ottawa and hosted by iPolitics."

iPolitics is an Ottawa ON based news service focused on politics and Canadian events. If it can push out Canadian space activities to a wider audience, then that's a good thing.

The event will also coincide with Washington, DC based Ipsos Public Affairs releasing a public opinion poll on Canadians’ attitudes toward space. Ipsos public opinion polls don't come cheap and the use of one suggests some serious money is behind the current advocacy campaign.

As En Vogue would say, when you add money to the mix, the possibilities are "lovemaking, heartbreaking, soul shaking."

Whether or not those generic, emotional and public facing concepts will influence government funding for the Canadian space industry is another story entirely.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

The Five Winning Superclusters Still Haven't Received Their $950Mln in Promised Funding

          By Henry Stewart

Almost seven months after the  five "industry led" technology groups slated to get a piece of the $950Mln Federal government “superclusters” funding program were announced in Ottawa to much fanfare, none of the groups seem to have received any of the promised funding.

Innovation minister Navdeep Bains announces the five "industry led" technology groups which would receive funding under the Federal Supercluster program at the Ottawa, ON based Canada Science and Technology Museum (CSTM) on Thursday, February 15th, 2018. Photo c/o CBC News.

On the other hand, and as outlined in the September 6th, 2018 Financial Post article, "Canada’s $950-million bet on innovation gets set to take the next step," the five winning groups, "have been hammering out details and funding agreements with Ottawa and some expect to launch projects this fall."

According to the article, "money is expected to start flowing this fall once the five innovation partnerships receive final sign-off from the federal government — something that could happen imminently."

As outlined in the February 16th, 2018 post, "Ottawa Announces Winners of $950Mln 'Supercluster' Competition," the five technology groups chosen for funding include:
  • Canada's Ocean Supercluster, based in Atlantic Canada, which will develop and utilize innovative technologies to improve competitiveness in Canada’s ocean-based industries, including fisheries, oil and gas and clean energy. Partners include PQ based ABB Canada, Ottawa ON based C-CORE and Cambridge, ON based exactEarth.
  • The Quebec based SCALE.AI Supply Chain Supercluster, which will work on building intelligent supply chains using artificial intelligence and robotics. According to its website, the consortium includes "over 80 Canadian companies, 26 business associations and 12 Canadian academic institutions."
Last fall, the government narrowed a field of about 50 original applicants to nine organizations. The money will be distributed over five years to the five winners, which will have to match the federal funding they receive, dollar for dollar.

A proposal from the Satellite Canada Innovation Network, which was discussed in the August 3rd, 2017 post, "Satellite Canada Applies for Innovation SuperCluster Funds," didn't make the list of finalists.

As second proposal, the Prairies’ smart agri-food supercluster, profiled in the August 31st, 2017 post, "MacDonald Dettwiler is Part of an Alberta Based Agrifood ‘Supercluster’ Proposal"and listed as one of the nine finalists, didn't make the final cut either.

The government expects the program to eventually create more than 50,000 jobs for Canadians.

Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer. 

Monday, September 10, 2018

Canada US Cooperation in Space VS The US Questioning of Old Ideas Intended to Combat "Soviet" Expansionism

          By Chuck Black

When multiple mid-level bureaucrats from two separate countries come together in an open, public forum to explain that the existing method they use to interact has been very successful in the past and shouldn't be changed, then you just know that others further up the food chain have been thinking differently.

Such was the case when Scott Pace, the executive secretary of the US National Space Council (NSC), NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, current Canadian Space Agency (CSA) president Sylvain Laporte and past CSA president William "Mac" Evans, got together in Washington DC with several dozen other space experts on September 7th, 2018 as part of a public presentation from the Washington DC based Canada Institute titled "Over the Horizon: A New Era for Canada-US Space Cooperation?"

The initial two hour set of presentations is available on YouTube, for those who'd like to access the primary source material. Links are included in the image above.

But for those who are in a hurry, as outlined in the September 9th, 2018 Space News post, "US-Canada space relations not affected by trade dispute," both US and Canadian participants "praised the long history of cooperation between the two countries in space activities and expected it to continue."

Not that there is anything wrong with that. According to Laporte, "we have always found a way to cooperate."

Meanwhile, and according to the post:
...just a few blocks away at the offices of the United States Trade Representative, American and Canadian negotiators were discussing issues related to changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement. Those came after months of trade disputes between the countries.
Perhaps the real problem is that Canada doesn't yet realize that the game is changing when it comes to trade and cooperation with the US.

As outlined in the post:
Asked by one of the event’s moderators if space was “immune” to those trade tensions, Pace said he didn’t have the authority to address trade issues specifically. However, he argued that the growth of free trade between the two countries had its roots in security and defense cooperation during the Cold War. 
“I think we’re looking at, certainly, a period of adjustment as globalization poses new challenges,” he said. “I think that space is rather special. I would never take anything off the table for other trade discussions, but I think that the importance of space, our mutual interests there, is right now undisturbed.”
As for whether those mutual interests will remain undisturbed tommorrow, that's not a question the space agency leaders from either country were really able to answer.

The reality of the situation is a different kettle of fish entirely.

At this point, our current CSA president would be well served by generating a few independent projects which don't require the active participation of someone else's space agency in order to move forward. That would certainly provide some Canadian leverage in any future cooperative talks between the CSA, NASA and their respective national governments.

But the CSA is probably not going to go down this path, if only because it doesn't have the support of its political masters in the Federal Liberal government.

That's a shame. We had a good space program once.

It would be nice if we could have one again. 
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

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